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May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

With the riding season now underway, motorcycles are returning rapidly to streets and highways throughout the state. More than 500,000 Wisconsin residents have motorcycle licenses or permits and more than 340,000 motorcycles are registered in the state, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

As motorcycles continue to grow in popularity among men and women of all ages, safety is a constant concern. Last year, motorcyclists’ traffic deaths in Wisconsin increased by 31, or approximately 36 percent, compared with 2011. The 116 motorcyclists’ fatalities in 2012 were the highest number since the all-time high of 123 in 1979.

“During May, which is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, we’re reminding motorists to share the road and watch for motorcycles, especially at intersections and while making turns and lane changes,” says Greg Patzer, manager of the Wisconsin Motorcycle Safety Program. “Motorists often have difficulty with accurately judging the time, speed and distance of an approaching motorcycle. To prevent crashes, motorists should check the position of a motorcycle at least two or three times before they start to drive through an intersection or make a turn.”

Patzer also emphasizes that motorcyclists need to make responsible decisions to reduce their risks of serious or fatal injuries. “Motorcyclists must obey all traffic laws, such as speed limits, and never ride while impaired. They should always wear protective and conspicuous clothing and gear, including a helmet that meets or exceeds US DOT standards. Tragically, 74 percent of the motorcyclists who died in crashes last year in Wisconsin were not wearing helmets. Riding a motorcycle also takes more physical skill and mental concentration than driving a car. Becoming a lifelong learner through formal training is critical to a rider’s safety.”

To save lives and reduce injuries from crashes, the Wisconsin Motorcycle Safety Program has provided rider training for 32 years and has graduated approximately 163,000 riders in that time. The Wisconsin Motorcycle Safety Program has expanded its courses to offer comprehensive training for riders at all levels of experience from beginner to advanced.

In addition, the Wisconsin Motorcycle Safety Program will hit the road again this year with its mobile training facility, called THE REF (Transportable High- End Rider Education Facility), to reach out to motorcycle riders and motorists around the state. THE REF promotes training for all riders as well as motorists’ awareness of motorcycles on the road. This riding season, THE REF is scheduled to visit motorcycle rallies, county fairs, local festivals and other events in more than 40 locations.

Patzer concludes, “Now more than ever, we need well-trained and responsible motorcycle riders along with motorists who share the road to help reach the goal of reducing the number of preventable traffic deaths to Zero In Wisconsin.”

For information about Wisconsin Motorcycle Safety Program rider training courses and locations, visit the WisDOT Web site at: